Friday, November 4, 2022

Edit - verb...make changes to text, film, etc.

Started the editing of the quartet yesterday at Wayne's. We got the first two movements done. The final movement, then mixing/mastering next week. It is very tedious work, but necessary and at some moments fun. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Breeze Through Azabu

 In 2015 the International Center for Japanese Culture sponsored a competition  for compositions for two 13 string, one 17 string kotos and Bb clarinet. I submitted a piece: Stellar's Sea Eagle - On seeing the Tower of Prayer - Cape Soya. I didn't win the competition, but I dedicated and sent the piece to Michiyo Yagi, with whom I had performed when I was doing my residency in Japan in 2013. She loved the piece, but had no occasion to perform it. A few months ago I received a massage from her husband and manager Mark Rappaport, asking if I was willing to redo the piece for four kotos and clarinet. Michiyo had received a small grant form Arts Council Tokyo to commission and perform new music for koto. Of course, I said yes. However, in reviewing the score, I just couldn't see how it could easily be done. That piece was very specific and each instrument had a particular extramusical role to play. There was no room for another instrument without undermining the conceptual basis of the work. So we decided I should do a brand new work. That work is now in Michiyo's hands. 

It is titled: Breeze Through Azabu - I'm Just Seeing. There's Nothing Wrong with Keeping Your Eyes Open. It is for 17, 18, 21, 25 string kotos and Bb clarinet. It combines graphic and normal Western music notation. Azabu is the neighborhood I lived in when I was in Tokyo. It is sort of upscale, with a lot of foreign embassies so therefore a lot of Gaijin, like me and hipsters, not like me. You can see a few shots of the area here. The premier will be on Dec. 3, 2022 at Koen-Dori Classics, the same venue at which I performed with Michiyo.

Giraffe Metatarsal-Springbok Trumpet

 It should be clear by now that I make instruments out of animal parts. The instruments are necessarily primitive and crude. Some work well, some barely work at all. When I did that recent project for B. McCreary that needed some sounds for Orc war horns, the request was made for wooden and bone horn horns. Wooden horns you can find and more importantly get good sounds out of. That is because you can control the manufacture of the instrument. Bones are a different story. Basically you take what you can get. I started with cow femurs from my work in the food industry. Those are still the best bone instruments I have. But because of my trip to Middle Earth, I looked around for longer, better bones. I got longer, I wouldn't say better. You saw the photo of the giraffe metatarsal in the September 28 post of this blog. I added a couple of springbok horns at one end and a trombone mouthpiece at the other, resulting in a very cool looking trumpet. It doesn't sound as cool as it looks. What can I say? Bone is bone. They are porous, that inner passage is irregular and random, you don't have much of a bell. But it does work, especially when microphones are employed. 

And microphones were employed in the realization of Jessie Cox's Black Mother - ship, which was the finale of the Heidi Duckler Dance production The Body of the People. I used several homemade instruments, as well as some you can get from any good instrument dealer, in Jessie's piece and my own solo section. In that solo section, my character was ancestor calling forth my cohort ancestors and the audience to travel with me to another level of existence. So I chose instruments that made sense to that, but mostly I spoke. Yes, I made it all up on the spot. Gina Cline gets credit for the shots of me as ancestor-caller. 

That same weekend (Oct. 21 & 22) I was back at Wayne Peet's studio to do a recording led by Welsh harpist Rhodri Davies, who was at the start of a short U.S. tour. Also on the session was Ang Wilson, playing electronics. We did Davies/Roper, Davies/Roper/Wilson and Davies/Wilson. I'm using the names because using harp/tuba, etc. is so far from what was happening as to be silly. I listened to the roughs a couple of days ago. I think that they are very good. I don't know what Rhodri intends to do with the recordings. Maybe you'll have a chance to hear them someday. 

The big excitement is that this past Sunday, (Oct. 30) I was on a shopping trip in Manhattan Beach. There were a lot of people walking around with pumpkins. Okay, it was the day before Halloween, so maybe not so strange. But all of the pumpkins had wheels! The shopkeeper informed us that Manhattan Beach has an annual pumpkin race. I knew you would want some shots of that! (Some of those pumpkins weren't pumpkins.)

Monday, October 31, 2022

Closer to Reality

 The Eastside Arts Initiative commissioned a string quartet and its performance at LACSA and YOLA at Torres. It has been a long road getting it finished but the end of the project is near. The original plan was to present the performances then record the composition. But as they say in Zimbabwe, "Shit happens." So on October 15, we recorded the quartet. The performances will now happen on Nov. 10 & 12. Because of COVID restrictions, they will not be open to the public. 

The ensemble is the Koan Quartet. The Koan commissioned my first string quartet, titled You are Responsible, Forever, for What You Have Tamed. You might recognize that title for the piece was inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince. Because shit, in this case COVID, happened, the piece has yet to receive a performance. So it goes. 

But the new piece, titled Juvenile Terrestrial References - Semi-Autonomous Zones, is chugging along for its premiere performance. And the recording is done. More specifically, the recording part is done. It has to be edited and mixed. I'm going to do that this Thursday, Nov. 3. It is going to be one of the more involved post production sessions I've done. Actually I am sure it will be the most involved. I do have another project in the can that will even top this one in terms of post production, but first things first. The quartet played really well and had a refreshing attitude. As usual, Wayne Peet's expertise, crazy ears and musical sensitivity in the engineer's seat made everything flow easily. I think the recording is going to be quite grand. Below you'll find photos of the session.

And below those photos you will find a single shot from an Oktoberfest gig Richárd Bernard's Zeitgeist Polka Band did on the west-side of town. I only include this photo because the light is so hip. It was a small version of the band, a trio. There is something to be said for that. Fewer people to police the tempo for. 

Saturday, October 8, 2022

The Beat Goes On...

 Finally a weekend that I don't have to rehearse or perform. The music biz is not all it is cracked up to be. Not that I've been able to relax. I have a lot of work to do. Not the least of which is a piece I've agreed to compose for Michio Yagi and her ensemble - four kotos and clarinet. Kotos are identified by the how many strings they have. Michio's ensemble has a 17, 18, 21 and 25 string koto. That is a lot to deal with. Writing for four kotos is not like writing for a string quartet. I've been dealing with violins, violas and cellos my whole life. Though I wrote a piece for clarinet and three kotos a few years ago, I have to relearn all that sui generis koto stuff. I have a choice of clarinet and/or bass clarinet. Not sure, but I think I'll limit myself to B-flat clarinet. 

Last weekend however, was busy. I did a recording session on Sunday for which I rehearsed on Saturday and the previous Wednesday. The project was for composers Josh Gerowitz, Casey Anderson and Casey Butler. They had a composition each, though Josh's was multi-movement. I enjoyed all of them. The whole experience was great fun. The ensemble was two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, three reeds, percussion, drums, guitar and bass. We recorded at Seahorse Studio, where I recorded with Vijay Anderson a month or two ago. Vinny Golia was on this date as well, like he was on Vijay's. 

The Composers...

Saturday's Rehearsal...

I went shopping at a local African market...

Shots from the session...

Stopped at a market on the way home, saw this sign, but didn't see any avocados.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Bones (and Whatnot) Pay Off Again

 I have all of these strange and exotic instruments. Most I buy, some I make. Here are three links to videos that demonstrate some of these: Video 1, Video 2, Video 3. Generally I use them for my own projects. Every now and then I get to use them on projects that get some wider exposure, like this project. That first video is an outlier. Usually on these types of jobs there is no credit. The sounds I produce are just part of the sound design. That was the case on one of the Shrek movies. But here's a recent one where I did get credit, the new Amazon series The Rings of Power. This link is to composer Bear McCreary's blog in which he gives me a credit. And here is a photo of the bones that came in yesterday. Eventually I'll make instruments of them. This time, since I have plenty of bone trumpets, I think I'll go a little further and add bells of horn and maybe mouthpiece rims. We'll see. It'll take awhile. The four in the foreground are buffalo, the long one in back is a 25-inch giraffe metatarsal leg bone.  

People Celebrating Their Cultural Roots (Or Just Having Fun)

 A busy weekend full of festivals. Saturday I drove out to Moorpark, in the southern regions of Ventura county. I was playing with Der Madderhorns traditional German brass band at the Enegren Brewing Company's Oktoberfest. It is a two-day celebration. It is a hard gig...two hours of solid playing. The tuba gets no rest in the realm of polkas. My lederhosen are getting a little tight. A loss of 10 - 15 pounds should solve the problem. I am certainly not going to buy a bigger pair. 

with the owner

Sunday was a trip down to South Los Angeles. The ARK was doing the closing set at the Watts Towers Jazz Festival. It is actually a two-day festival, the first day is The Day of the Drums. Closing the festival is a traditional role for the ARK (Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra). I've done it only once before. It was years ago, too long ago for me to remember when. What I do remember was that in one tune Horace (Tapscott) nodded at me to take a solo. I didn't want to take a solo and indicated such. Usually that is enough for the leader to move on to the next person. Horace acted like he didn't get the signal. But he did. He just decided to ignore it and kept vamping. He vamped and the band vamped. I realized that things weren't going to move on until I took a solo. I wasn't going to win this one. So I took a solo. It wasn't a great solo, but I looked like less of a fool than I would have if I hadn't taken one and let the band keep vamping with everyone looking at me. No such drama this year. Just playing tuba parts. The ARK has always had a mix of young and old. That is part of the strategy. Here are some shots of a few of the band members.